For most people, a trip to Hawaii means a vacation full of beaches and sunshine. For space enthusiasts among us, it also means a chance to kick back, relax, and enjoy some leisurely stargazing.
But can you go stargazing near the popular Hawaiian destination of Honolulu? Turns out, you can! Many of Oahu’s most popular beaches turn into great stargazing spots when the sun goes down. Read on to learn where you can try and glimpse the night sky from Honolulu itself, and where to explore beyond the city if you want to see the stars.
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Honolulu
Honolulu, as the picture demonstrates above, can be a bright city by day, under the Hawaiian sun, and by night. As such, there aren’t a ton of stargazing options in the city itself. You can explore the map to see spots in and near the city, then read on to learn more about them.
Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head State Monument is the crater of a dormant volcano. Although the gates close at 6 pm, it’s still possible to get an excellent view of the stars from its parking area. It’s also a popular tourist attraction, so expect a crowd to be there.
Honolulu, HI 96815, dlnr.hawaii.gov
Bishop Museum is the largest museum in Hawaii and is a great place to learn more about the history of the state. Thanks to its J. Watumull Planetarium, it’s also one of the best spots in the city to go stargazing. It hosts a number of astronomical events throughout the year, all of which are coordinated to provide the best stargazing experience possible.
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817, bishopmuseum.org
Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Honolulu
As is the case for most stargazing city guides, if you’re willing to go a bit out of the city, you’ll be well-rewarded with great stargazing opportunities. Most of these spots can actually be reached in 30 minutes or less!
One quick note before you start exploring: these locations, especially the ones along the coast, can be more treacherous at night due to slippery conditions and tides. Be sure to check in advance so you know where to park, which trails are open, and what the tides will be like when you head out stargazing.
Mount Tantalus is a massive cinder cone located near the city of Honolulu. Along with providing a great view of Honolulu in general, it also provides an excellent view of the night sky. It’s a perfect spot for those who enjoy both hiking and stargazing.
Honolulu, HI 96813, hawaii.com
The Spitting Caves is a cliffside walking trail that’s popular for hiking, cliff diving, and whale watching. Its isolation from the rest of civilization also makes it a good place to observe the stars. Please be careful though. The path is slippery and the waters can be dangerous.
7 Lumahai St., Honolulu, HI 96825
This beach is a very famous tourist area, and is a great place for snorkeling and watching marine life. It’s open at night two weekends a month for night snorkeling. This is a good time to grab your telescope and go stargazing. The beach’s lack of light pollution makes it very easy to see the stars.
7455 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96825, hanaumabaystatepark.com
This scenic lookout is one of Hawaii’s lesser-known attractions. It’s a good spot for whale watching and provides an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s overall isolation also makes it one of the better places to go stargazing. The tides can be a little intense sometimes, so be careful.
Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96825, htourshawaii.com
The Halona Blowhole is one of Hawaii’s most incredible natural wonders. It shoots geysers up to thirty feet in the air when the conditions are right. It also never closes, making it a very convenient spot for watching the stars. Once again, conditions can be very dangerous here. Please exercise caution.
Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96825, hawaii.com
The Hokulani Imaginarium is a planetarium that uses some of the most state-of-the-art equipment available. It hosts stargazing shows on the second Wednesday of every month. Its presenter, Krissie Kellogg, is extremely knowledgeable, making this an excellent opportunity to learn more about the night skies of Hawaii.
Kaneohe, HI 96744, aerospace.wcc.hawaii.edu
Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Honolulu
As the island of Oahu isn’t that large of an island – just 44 miles long and 30 miles wide –, you can pretty easily explore the whole island within a few hours. That means you can also reach the best stargazing spots on Oahu within two hours – or even visit more than one in a single night. (Conversely, there aren’t as many stargazing spots to choose from, but these ones make up for it once the sun goes down and you see how dark the skies are!)
Mokule’ia Beach Park
Mokule’ia Beach Park is another one of Hawaii’s most popular beaches. Its nearest town is also a fairly long distance away. This means you won’t have to worry too much about light pollution. The beach gets very dark at night, making it one of the best places to go stargazing in Hawaii.
Farrington Hwy, Waialua, HI 96791, htourshawaii.com
Kaena Point State Park
Kaena Point State Park is the westernmost tip of Oahu. According to legend, it’s also where Hawaiian souls depart to the next world. There are many activities available here such as hiking, snorkeling, and surfing. It’s also one of the darkest places in Oahu at night. In fact, it’s very possible to see the Milky Way from here.
Waialua, HI 96791, dlnr.hawaii.gov
Wahiawa Heights is a nice, quiet neighborhood that’s good for getting away from the city lights of Honolulu. There are many small parks in this area that get very dark at night. These are good places to set up your telescope and gaze at the stars. It’s also fairly quiet here, and you’ll more or less have the place to yourself.
Wahiawa, HI 96786, locationshawaii.com
How Good is the Stargazing in Honolulu?
As Hawaii’s largest city, you’re going to have a very difficult time finding good stargazing opportunities in Honolulu. Even in spots like Bishop Museum, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of light pollution. To really see the stars in Oahu, you’re going to have to get away from the city.
Unfortunately, some of the best stargazing spots on the island have rather hazardous conditions. This obviously becomes even worse at night. You’re still welcome to give these spots a try. However, please know what you’re getting into and take necessary precautions.
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Honolulu
The best time to go stargazing in Hawaii is generally between the months of February and September. The summer months, in particular, provide the most ideal conditions. This is when the nights are darkest and you have the best chance of seeing the Milky Way.
In addition to this, the tides can be especially dangerous during the winter months. For these reasons, it’s best to avoid stargazing near Honolulu during the winter.
Can You See the Milky Way in Honolulu?
Of all the Hawaiian islands, Oahu suffers from the most light pollution. This makes it really difficult to see the Milky Way. This is unfortunate because it’s relatively easy to find on the other islands.
If you want to see the Milky Way without having to drive too far, your best bet is to go to Kaena Point State Park. The skies get very dark here, so getting a glimpse of the Milky Way is a very real possibility. You also have a good chance of seeing it at Wahiawa Heights. To improve your odds, make sure you visit during the summer and wait for a new moon.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Honolulu? Ask in the comments.
Featured photo by Jenly Chen via Flickr